The penultimate round of the 2019 Men’s Six Nations sees Ireland entertain an extremely inconsistent French side at the Aviva Stadium.

Joe Schmidt has made seven changes with Rory Best and Iain Henderson returning to the starting lineup. Jacob Stockdale continues in the left wing slot while John Cooney has beaten Kieran Marmion to the back up nine jersey.

Best is joined in the front row by Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong while James Ryan makes a return to the second row after missing being rested against Italy. Quinn Roux and Ultan Dillane were solid in the last match but Henderson and Ryan will allow Ireland to find another gear. Peter O’Mahony is the only player retained in the back row with Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander coming in for Sean O’Brien and Jordi Murphy respectively.

There’s only one change to the backline as Garry Ringrose recovers from an injury picked up in the opening match to replace Chris Farrell. Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton didn’t have great outings in Rome and need to be on their game to overcome a talented French halfback pairing. Bundee Aki joins Ringrose in the centres while Jacob Stockdale, Keith Earls and Rob Kearney round off the back three.

France recorded their first win two weeks ago over an injury-hit Scotland side in Paris and have named an unchanged side for Sunday’s match. In the last round, France were buoyed by the inclusion of Thomas Ramos at full back, Romain Ntamack at out half and Antoine Dupont at scrum half.

The scrum half was one, if not the only, player to come out of their thumping by England with any sort of positive review. He played only played 33 minutes in round two yet beat the most defenders (9) of any player in that round while only Blair Kinghorn has made more clean breaks than the Toulouse player. Our own Jacob Stockdale (9) was the only player to beat more defenders than Thomas Ramos (7) in round three. Ramos has electric pace and always favours to run the ball back from gathering kicks.

Demba Bamba was nominated for player of the tournament at the most recent U20s World Championship and his transition has been almost seamless into the senior set up. Contracted to Lyon, but on loan at Stuart Olding’s Brive, he’s a dynamic carrier and powerful scrummager but he’ll be tested on against Cian Healy on Sunday.

The FRU predicts: There’s no doubt that this French outfit have loads of talented players however when they’ve come up against organised opposition they’ve often been found wanting. I’ll tip Ireland to win by ten points in the end but I expect France to cause a few worries to Joe Schmidt’s men.

Ireland France
Rob Kearney 15 Thomas Ramos
Keith Earls 14 Damian Penaud
Garry Ringrose 13 Mathieu Bastareaud
Bundee Aki 12 Gael Fickou
Jacob Stockdale 11 Yoann Huget
Johnny Sexton 10 Romain Ntamack
Conor Murray 9 Antoine Dupont
Cian Healy 1 Jefferson Poirot
Rory Best 2 Guilhem Guirado
Tadhg Furlong 3 Demba Bamba
Iain Henderson 4 Felix Lambey
James Ryan 5 Sebastien Vahaamahina
Peter O’Mahony 6 Wenceslas Lauret
Josh vd Flier 7 Arthur Iturria
CJ Stander 8 Louis Picamoles
Niall Scannell 16 Camille Chat
Dave Kilcoyne 17 Etienne Falgoux
John Ryan 18 Dorian Aldegheri
Ultan Dillane 19 Paul Willemse
Jack Conan 20 Gregory Alldritt
John Cooney 21 Baptiste Serin
Jack Carty 22 Anthony Belleau
Jordan Larmour 23 Maxime Medard

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